Advice on Building a Tank Type Character


My son is rolling up a new character for a game this weekend and he wants to play a heavily armored, big hitting, front line combatant that will attract the attention of the enemy.

I understand that Pathfinder is not built to satisfy the old Tank/Healer/DPS roles like most MMO's, but he still wants that feel. I was thinking either an Armored Hulk Barbarian (for heavy armor, which he wants), or some type of Fighter.

I am looking for any/all advice for him regarding this. Please keep these things in mind:

PFS Play
High AC
Solid DPS output
No Paladins (he already plays one)
Not terribly fond of spellcasters, but if the build is right he will look into it.

Something along the lines of a Greatsword wielding character in Heavy Armor, perhaps transitioning to the Stalwart Defender prestige class.

Well, the first thing that comes to mind for me as a good tank is the Battle Host Occultist. It gets a free set of masterwork heavy armor (or possibly a masterwork weapon if he wants to go that way instead), and if you use focus on Illusion and Abjuration, you can wind up with a lot tankiness rather quickly. From there, I would personally go for worshiping Gorum, and pick up his Divine Fighting technique for a bit more oomph. Add in the buff spells that an Occultist can learn, and he'll be in good shape.

Alternatively, he can go with a Steelblood Arcane Bloodrager. Just do the standard bloodrage with a great big two-handed weapon, and he'll be in good shape!

Sounds like a standard human fighter. Pretty simple to build and play. Start with a great sword, a few throwing weapons, and medium armor. Save up for masterwork full plate. After that get a few nice great swords for dealing with different types of enemies. Increase strength as high as possible. Dex and con are both nice to have but they are secondary stats. Also Wis needs to be at least 10. For skills get perception. For feats get Power Attack, Weapon Focus, Weapon Specialization, and anything that makes you hit more or better

Halfling Barbarian

No, really they could pull it off.

The Anatgonize feat lets you use diplomacy to give opponents a penalty to attacking anyone that is not you. Note, intimidate makes them have to hit you, but as a small creature you do get penalties, and the Taunt feat only lets you use bluff to demoralize.

Invulnerable rager barbarian works pretty well. Halflings get the racial feat cautious fighter boosting fighting defensively.

The Stalwart and Improved Stalwart Feats convert fighting defensively into straight DR which is adaptable based on the opponent.

High acrobatics score allows for mobility and boosts the fighting defensively bonus.

You don't want to see me when I'm angry... Because I will goad you into going after me and take pure defensive actions to make me untouchable...

Some other folks might be able to optimize it better than me.

Oh yeah, and at first the penalty to strength doesn't seem too nice, you can rebalance the stats a bit, for example you can place dexterity lower.

I'm not sure how the bloodrager archetypes could compare, but the abyssal bloodline lets you become bigger when you rage, which makes weapon damage more powerful.

Fighter/bloodrager/barb/Occultist/warpriest are the classes I know that have heavy armor and work well as big hitters. Cavalier also, but it's mounted so maybe not what you're looking for.

Fighter = consistent
bloodrager/barb = rage
warpriest = swift buffs and spells
occultist = skills, spells, perhaps the "weakest" of the lot

Well really you have two routes to go for this. Either the high armor/shield fighter type which the above advice works great for or the lightly armored dex tank. Could even go something like a titan mauler barb or take some unbreakable fighter to help get into the stalwart defender class.

You can also go something like a high dex defensive fighting character. Something like a monk, swashbuckler, or daring champion cavalier. Depending on your route you'd want something like crane style, piranha strike, etc. Since you get good dodge bonuses, high dex, and defensive fighting bonuses your AC is good and you get a decent amount offensive capability(not quite a 2h power attacking fighter of course)

The biggest trick to being a front line fighter is to actually get the party to let you lead the way and/or get out in front prior to the enemy closing ranks. Having a high AC is great, but it is meaningless if you can't get in place.

Stress these points in the build:

- high Perception to make it to where you lead the way for trap finding
- high Stealth so you are good on point as a scout
- high Initiative to make it to where you get in place quick
- high enough AC to give a decent miss chance
- low enough AC to give a reason to attack you instead of ignoring you
- defense that negates some damage to make foes "feel like they are doing good"
- larger area of control

As such, I'd recommend a tengu unchained barbarian.

Tenubar the Tengu Unchained Barbarian

S: 16 D: 16 C: 12 I: 12 W: 14 Ch: 7 (20 pt tengu)

- Reactionary (+2 Init)
- Highlander (+1 Stealth, Stealth is a class skill)

Racial Traits:
- Claw Attack (which means you'll have a claw/claw/bite attack)
- race gives +2 to Perception and Stealth

- Improved Initiative (1st)
- Left Open On Purpose (Toughness, Power Attack are good)

This will pump up your Perception (+8 @ 1st) and Stealth (+10 @ 1st), which means you will be on point as a scout. Further, you'll have a great Initiative (+9 @ 1st) to be able to react fast.

You will have a decent AC (good AC if you turtle up using a shield, see below) and mitigate damage via Unchained Barbarian having temp hitpoints when they rage.

Fight with a reach weapon (glaive?) or drop it for multi-attacks (claw/claw/bite) when in position. This will allow you to threaten at 5' (bite) and 10' (glaive) range at all times. Further, at level 2 barbarian, go for a gore attack and then you'll be able to turtle up with a buckler and still have 3 attacks (claw/bite/gore) for good damage.

You will have nice movement (40' move) to be able to position yourself as needed.

The Exchange

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Maps, Pathfinder Accessories, Rulebook Subscriber

Invulnerable Rager (Advance Player's Guide) barbarian might also be a good choice. I believe IR is considered better than Armored Hulk, but it doesn't have heavy armor if heavy armor is a significant point. Any barbarian tends to be a stronger damage dealer and skill choice than fighter, unfortunately.

I'd favor Str, Con, then Dex, in that order. If you want to trip/disarm Int needs to be 13 unless you have access to Dirty Fighting from the Dirty Tactics Toolbox, which lets you bypass the stat and feat requirement.

Bull Rush and Overrun tend to be overlooked combat maneuvers, but can be very potent if used well, and the pre-req feat those trees require is Power Attack, which I'd get anyway. Sunder tends to be iffy (you can choose to leave items at just the broken condition, leaving the user with the broken debuff), but getting the Spell Sunder Rage Power makes it a potent option, even if it's only once per rage.

Grand Lodge

Half-orc Arcane Bloodrager with Fate's Favored and Sacred Tattoo.

Decent saves, ok AC, Built in Miss Chance.

You can be swinging a +6 weapon by level 11 easily enough with smart buying and Pairing with spells.

You can shut down full attacks with Spell storing armor, the spell Frigid Touch, and a 3k Lesser Rime Rod.

Grab a High Critical weapon like a Scimitar and use it in 2 hands...throw on a effortless lace and you can keep swinging it in a grapple/Grab situation and not see any drop in DPR.

If you want higher AC there is an archetype for Heavy Armor Proficiency. AND your proficient with Shields. (Great for Levels 1-4)

The Spell casting is hella Basic and easy to understand. A player with basic knowledge of spells can put together a pretty abusive spell list and will make use of Spell storing Armor and weapon (After your Furious Enchant of course.)

If not playing PFS then the Primalist Archetype should be taken ALWAYS if allowed. Then you can trade away the lesser powers like the Level 12 choices and grab up Come and Get me, Superstitious, Witch hunter, or anything else that you really like.

Some other ideas:

- The Weapon Trick feat offer some interesting options for combat. I'd start off with the Two-Handed Weapon option, as the powers granted seem mostly both thematic and useful.

- A Human Avenger Vigilante can make for a pretty valid choice in the stead of a fighter. You lose 1 hp per a level, relative, and you exchange your Good Fort save for a Good Ref and Will. But the real reason to do this is the addition of Social Skills and Extra Ranks. You'd need to take Heavy Armor Proficiency (or Heavy Armor Training at 2nd level) but you would also gain access to a second identity, allowing for swapping between Knight Errant and Mysterious Black Knight-esque personas. Ultimately, I think it'd make room for a more interesting character, with less frustration about not being able to take part in Social Situations (the Fighter's gotten better at this with the new Advanced Weapon and Armor training, but I still prefer the Avenger, especially with early levels.)

- Combat Reflexes + Bodyguard + Raised by Halflings, so you've got the trait Helpful(Halfling) is not a bad combination, and if the game uses a grid and takes place primarily in 10x10 rooms, then positioning will matter much more than previously, and it will lend an extra layer of stratedgy that keeps things from devolving into "Should I swing hard or really hard."

Pure fighter has my vote too. The class has enough feats to get more than one thing to work. If you follow Dastis advice, I'd give him DEX and CON 14 and drop the rest into STR, dumping CHA. Greatswords are a good choice, since you can often find one in the loot, while the more exotoc 2H are rare to non-existent.

If the psionics books were allowed, I'd say Soulknife, which is basically a fighter with a very flexible weapon (doesn't get any psi powers in fact), a damage mechanic and some cool specials.

Ranger works too...doesn't even need DEX to go the TWF route. I think an archetype can drop the spells for something more martial.

Pity spellcasters are out...battle oracle might be a nice choice, picking up levels as barbarian to qualify for the bloodrager. If not concerned about spellcasting, he could maximize the barbarian levels instead of the oracle later on.

Fruian Thistlefoot wrote:

Half-orc Arcane Bloodrager with Fate's Favored and Sacred Tattoo.

You can be swinging a +6 weapon by level 11 easily enough with smart buying and Pairing with spells.

How can you reach a +6 weapon by level 11?

Pure Fighter. You can have it all! A fighter with Mobile Bulwark Style can get some crazy defense with really good offense.

Be a Half-Orc, and take the alternate Racial traits Toothy/Chain Fighter (Chain fighter for Combat Reflexes focused, and Toothy for a non reaching build), Sacred Tattoo, and Shaman's Apprentice (Endurance so you can sleep in medium armor lol)

You want Shield Brace and Mobile Bulwark Style working together.

Negating ACP - Darkwood Tower Shield (-2) or Noqual (-3), Improved Shield Focus (-1), Tower Shield Specialist (-3, this leads to the following), Armor Training (-1...-4), Armor Expert (-1). Grab Shied Brace and you AC on all fronts is amazing. Combine this with a reach weapon, possibly lunge, and combat reflexes (And power attack, duh) with the weapon trick that makes your threatened two handed full round attack difficult terrain (? Someone help me out here), you'll have a very happy blaster caster/glass cannon behind you, and you're too dangerous a combo to ignore. Or just move around being invincible, providing cover and damage where needed.

Also, fun fact I've stumbled upon: Armor Master gets a scaling bonus to touch AC, but it isn't from the shield, it's gated by the shield's bonus. Mobile Fortress adds the bonus to touch from the shield itself. Just as well, the bonuses are untyped. As written, I think it stacks, leading up to +10 to touch ac. Basically, your Tower Shield acts against touch at that point. Just as well, Armor Master get DR3/- (You'll be in heavy armor) that stacks with adamantine for DR6/- (You'll get adamantine eventually).

There you go. Sweet saves with the tattoo, good damage with a two-handed power attack and Combat Reflexes/Primary(ish) Bite, the best AC (Normal, touch and flat-footed), DR for when you do get hit, and the ability to defend allies. A true tank. One could say a mobile bulwark. The build requires hella patience, though once you can easily two-hand with no penalty, you're a true monster.

Grand Lodge

Chess Pwn wrote:
Fruian Thistlefoot wrote:

Half-orc Arcane Bloodrager with Fate's Favored and Sacred Tattoo.

You can be swinging a +6 weapon by level 11 easily enough with smart buying and Pairing with spells.

How can you reach a +6 weapon by level 11?

Well +6 in the amount of bonuses you can have.

I've accomplished a +1 Furious Spell-storing Adamantine weapon by 11th Level. I then buy a Lesser Extend Rod for 3,000gp. I originally take Transmuter Trait (Cat's Grace) for the +1 CL to all Transmutation Spells. Then at Level 11 I take Greater Magic Weapon. With the Caster Level of 12 and a Extend Rod that is 24 hours worth of Buff. The end Result is a +3 Furious adamantine Spell Storing Weapon. WHile Raging it is a +5 Spell- Storing Weapon. That is the Equivalent of a +6 weapon. Not that It bypasses DR/ Epic but not much stands up to the weapon. And because it's only a +3 weapon for enchanting purposes you can easily work on a Bane or something when you get the coin. And if you're doing ok on wealth Oils of Bless weapon are Dirt and Auto confirm your Crits...Which i take improved critical on a 15-20 weapon

Stonelord paladin. Yes it is a paladin, but itnis so different that it verges almost past being an archetype.

The steelblood bloodrager is a pretty good heavy armor guy. There are two good bloodlines for tanking. Arcane can give itself good defensive buffs when starting its bloodrage, and has anti caster powers. And aberrant can control a wide area and take the abberant tumor feat, then give the familiar the protector archetype for a fast healing hit point battery.

strength build, two handed weapon Inquisitor.

1/2 orc Warpriest with the Healing domain. 16 strength, 16 wisdom, 14 dexterity. Take Sacred Tattoo and the Fate's Favored trait.

Take a thrown weapon as your Sacred Weapon (I prefer Darts because they can be drawn for free as Ammunition).

Take Power Attack, use a Falchion. When you don't have a melee target, take ranged attacks or cast spells as you move toward the next enemy.

Use Fervor to buff yourself as a Swift action. Divine Favor is going to be your go-to buff spell. Heal yourself with Swift action Empowerd cure spells when you take damage.

This is a character with tons of HP longevity and lots of versatility.

Thanks for all the advice, and I see a couple ideas I will explore for a character of my own.

After going over this information with him he has decided to slightly modify his idea but keep the basic principle intact.

He wants to try:

Steelblood Bloodrager (Draconic Bloodline), and eventual transition to Dragon Disciple. He will wield a Greatsword for damage, get some dragon goodness for fun and flavor, some buff/defensive spells, and then some stat bonuses.

Personally, I liked the Steelbloood Bloodrager (Aberrant Bloodline), taking the Aberrant Tumor feat to gain a Scorpion familiar with the Protector archetype. +4 to Initiative and shared damage with fast healing on the familiar. Yes please.

Frosty Ace wrote:
Combine this with a reach weapon, possibly lunge, and combat reflexes (And power attack, duh) with the weapon trick that makes your threatened two handed full round attack difficult terrain (? Someone help me out here), you'll have a very happy blaster caster/glass cannon behind you, and you're too dangerous a combo to ignore. Or just move around being invincible, providing cover and damage where needed.

Ah, always good to see reach advocates.

Even without going with the special fighter stuff (or was that a feat?), reach is fantastic for tanks. This is because your AoOs turn you into a circle of PAIN that enemies either have to avoid or waste time walking around.

One of the key points for a tank is that they must stay 'relevant' in order to encourage enemies to attack them. With reach, you can do this by making an attack on yourself more attractive than getting a glaive to the face from AoOs.

Aberrant blood ragers are fine reach users, since they can gain natural reach that exceeds even regular reach weapons. So it is certainly worth considering.

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